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Well Ordinance Update

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In April 2023, the Board of Supervisors approved amendments to the County's Well Ordinance brought forward by Permit Sonoma. Updated regulations went into effect on May 18, 2023.

The amendments create a new regulatory process that considers potential adverse impacts on public trust resources, such as habitat for Coho salmon, when approving well permits. The amended ordinance also includes requirements for water conservation measures for all new wells and requirements for well meter installation and water use reporting of new non-residential wells. Additional technical changes to inspection noticing, emergency wells, and review of well permits near contaminated sites were also approved.

Primary Ordinance Changes and Additions:

  1. Sec 25B-13 – Water Conservation Requirements for all new water wells.
  2. Sec 25B-12 – Metering and Monitoring Requirements, excluding low water use residential wells.
  3. Sec 25b-4(d) and (e) – Discretionary Public Trust Review for certain water wells within the Public Trust Review Area. At-cost deposit for discretionary review of $5,568.
  4. Sec 25b-5(d) – Emergency wells must submit a permit application and receive a well permit prior to drilling. Emergency wells will receive expedited review upon request.
  5. Sec 25b-6(h) – Replacement wells require the destruction of the old well within 180 days of installation of the new well.
  6. Sec 25b-5(f)(4) – Inspection lead time. It is required to provide Permit Sonoma notice the day prior to well seal installation.
  7. Sec 25b-6(g) – Wells within setbacks of Contaminated Sites. No referral or approval by the Water Board. Permit Sonoma should review and approve hydrogeologic reports prepared by a registered geologist or hydrogeologist.

Well Amendment Process:

On October 4, 2022, the Board of Supervisors adopted a temporary moratorium on well permits. It directed Permit Sonoma to convene a working group to discuss policy options for consideration of impacts on public trust resources. Two groups were formed and provided a joint recommendations report to Permit Sonoma in March 2023. These recommendations were considered, and an amended well ordinance was brought to the Board of Supervisors and approved on April 4, 2023. A second hearing was held, and final approval was granted on April 18, 2023.

Documents from April 18, 2023 in PDF format:

Technical and Policy Working Groups

Prior to the Board of Supervisors' approval, Technical and Policy Working Groups were convened by Permit Sonoma. The Working Groups were tasked with making well-reasoned policy recommendations and met regularly from November 2022 to March 2023.

Policy Working Group

The Policy Working Group considered policy options and made recommendations representing diverse stakeholder interests of Sonoma County:


Groups Represented

Mike Martini, Co-Chair

Ag and Development Interests

Rue Furch, Co-Chair

Sonoma County Water Coalition

Brock Dolman

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Monty Schmitt

Nature Conservancy

Charlie Schneider


Ben Campanile

Well Driller

Sandi Potter

Petaluma Groundwater Sustainability Agency Administrator

Mike Sangiacomo

Vineyard Manager

Rob Cantu

North Coast Builders Exchange

Carol Lexa

North Bay Association of Realtors

Dayna Ghirardelli

Sonoma County Farm Bureau

Carolyn Wasem

North Bay Water District

Technical Working Group

The Technical Working Group developed and assessed policy recommendations using scientifically accepted theories, methods, and practices:


Groups Represented

Jay Jasperse

Water Resources Consultant

Retired - Sonoma County Water Agency

Sam Boland-Brien

California State Water Resources Control Board

Jessica Maxfield

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Rick Rogers

National Marine Fisheries Service

Andy Casarez

Office of the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner

Marcus Trotta

Sonoma County Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

Matt Petersen

Well Driller

Laurel Marcus

Agricultural Practices

Brad Petersen

Vineyard Manager

Melissa Rohde

Environmental Consultant

Bruce Abelli Amen

Environmental Consultant

Ken Johnson

Environmental and geotechnical Consultant


The Technical Working Group and the Policy Working Group met independently and jointly via Zoom. Links to meeting materials are provided below:

Date Meeting Meeting Number and Information
11/17/22 Joint Working Groups

Meeting 1

11/30/22 Policy Working Group 

Meeting 1

12/01/22 Technical Working Group

Meeting 1

12/14/22 Policy Working Group

Meeting 2

12/15/22 Technical Working Group

Meeting 2

01/05/23 Technical Working Group

Meeting 3

01/11/23 Policy Working Group

Meeting 3

01/12/23 Technical Working Group

Meeting 4

01/25/23 Policy Working Group

Meeting 4

02/01/23 Joint Working Groups

Meeting 2

02/08/23 Policy Working Group

Meeting 5

02/09/23 Technical Working Group

Meeting 5

02/22/23 Policy Working Group

Meeting 6

02/23/23 Technical Working Group

Meeting 6

03/02/23 Joint Working Groups

Meeting 3

Frequently Asked Questions

Revised in July 2023

The County of Sonoma requires property owners to obtain a permit to drill, deepen or abandon groundwater wells. Under the existing well ordinance (Sonoma County Code Chapter 25B), Permit Sonoma must issue permits for well projects that meet county construction requirements for structural integrity and water quality.